Elimination of Headphone Jack From iPhone 7 Irks Potential Buyers

NEWS ANALYSIS: Apple's real incentive to eliminate the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 has more to do with making money than designing a better smartphone.

Apple EarPods

The fact that Apple decided to eliminate the time-honored 3.5 millimeter headphone jack from the design of the iPhone 7 wasn't a surprise, if only because for months rumors had been saying this would happen.

But the advance warning didn't make the reality of the decision any less controversial, nor did it help make dubious iPhone owners any more comfortable with the idea of upgrading to the next-generation model. The reason for the weak reception is simple: few saw any likely benefit.

For some time, the argument for the anticipated elimination of the headphone jack was it would allow the phone to be thinner than its predecessor, the iPhone 6S. But a look at the specs reveals that the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are exactly the same thickness as the previous models. Clearly, eliminating the headphone jack wasn't essential for the iPhone 7's design.

So what gives? Well, there are changes with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that help explain the vanishing headphone jack. The most notable reason is to allow the phones to have better speakers that also are louder. The improved speakers take up the space that normally would be occupied by the headphone jack.

Other changes include a better battery, which adds two hours of much-needed life to the iPhone 7 in average use. The fact that the new iPhone is also water resistant almost certainly played a role in the headphone jack's demise.

While the water-resistant nature of the speakers that replaced the headphone jack wasn't discussed during the announcement of the new phone, a related presentation on the new Apple Watch showed how the speaker was used to eject water from the openings on that device. Perhaps the iPhone's new speakers have a similar function, although so far Apple hasn't confirmed that.

But whatever the rationale for the elimination of the headphone jack, it hasn't gone over well with current owners and prospective buyers, who are expressing their consternation on social media.

This concern was no doubt helped along by a remarkable level of misinformation about the iPhone 7 in (to coin a phrase) the mainstream media. Over the course of a single day I saw several stories reporting that, with the iPhone 7, Apple had eliminated wired headphones.

The local NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C., even ran a poll asking viewers whether they favored wireless headphones or whether they wanted the old headphone jack back. The station apparently missed the fact that the iPhone 7 comes with both wired headphones and an adapter for legacy headphones in the box.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...